Dubai: A Bengaluru-based entrepreneur, Shahnawaz Kadavil’s search for fresh fish in the city in 2015 led him to the founding of a start-up FreshToHome, that has become India’s largest online delivery channel for fresh fish and meat direct to the homes of more than 700,000 customers in India, daily.
The huge acceptance of the business model and the brand in India has prompted the company to launch its operations the UAE. Following a soft launch in the UAE in 2017, the company currently makes more than 1,000 deliveries per day across the UAE.
“The whole concept to FreshToHome’s business model was derived from our desire to reach fresh fish and meat directly from the fishermen and farmers to the homes of customers without any harmful chemical treatment. The customer response to the idea has been tremendous,” said Kadavil.
The fresh fish and meat supply chain in India faces huge challenges in terms of storage and transportation. In many cases, authorities have discovered rampant use of chemicals such ammonia and formalin to keep fish from decay, resulting in serious health hazards for customers.
Increasingly in meat production and supply chain management too face chemical contamination from the use of antibiotics in livestock and use of harmful chemicals in storage. This is where FreshToHome has stepped in with its just in time inventory management and direct delivery of fresh produce directly from the source to end customers.
The company’s unique selling points are its claims of 100 per cent fresh food product and zero use of chemicals in storage or transportation stage. “When it comes to freshness, we don’t freeze fish and seafood but ensure it’s always maintained in the range of 0 to 4 degrees centigrade in a chilled environment to avoid bacterial contamination,” said Kadavil.
UAE and GCC foray
In the UAE, the company is determined to replicate its India success story and eventually spread its wings to other GCC countries.
In the UAE, the company has a large food processing and storage facility in Umm Al Quwain with a production capacity of 30 tonnes per day. FreshToHome is currently working on a strategy to add more products to it direct to home delivery channel, such as fruits and vegetables, cold pressed oils, organic cow and buffalo milk, dairy products, flour etc. The idea is to push the distribution across e-commerce platforms, retail stores and other channels across geographies.
Role of technology
FreshToHome was founded with the intention of selling fresh, chemical-free food. Clearly the company didn’t want to jeopardise the livelihoods of fishermen, which led to collaborating with fishermen across coasts, who fish on country boats or small trawlers. The company developed a tech-based solution called the ‘Commodities Exchange Platform’. This patent pending app allows fishermen from various coasts to bid with FreshToHome on their mobile phones. This unique technology has given them the company the opportunity to buy products from fishermen for a fair price, the benefit that is then passed on to consumers.
Additionally, they use IoT-based technology for their cold chain preservation along with artificial intelligence and machine learning for predicting patterns of growth and demand.
“The biggest challenge we face today is to educate consumers regarding safety issues in food supply chain and raise awareness. This will in turn force vendors to invest in robust cold chains, proper storage mechanisms and responsible sourcing of Fish and Meat,” said Kadavil.
FreshToHome’s business model has clearly caught the fancy of global venture capital investors. Recently the company secured $20 million a Series B Funding round led by Iron Pillar with the participation of Joe Hirao, the founder of ZIGExn, Japan. “For the near future, the company plans to stick to venture capital funding sources. However, as we expand, we could potentially look at wider public funding including capital markets,” said Kadavil.
The company claims it has investment support from reputed local and international investors such as Peter Thiel, founder eBay and PayPal, Mark Pincus, founder and chairman of Zynga, Peter Briger, Chairman of Fortress, Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair, CEO of Mashreq, David Krane, Google Ventures CEO, Joe Hirao ZigExn CEO and David Wehner, Facebook CFO.